Tibial, who was enjoying his renewed friendship with Chad, went to visit the older man whenever he had time. They talked often, and Chad would sometimes cook for him. Chad let Tibial see the painting he was currently working on, his previous one hidden safely away. It was a painting of the Goddess, a beautiful woman cradling the planet in her hands, the moon in her eyes and stars in her hair.
“That’s amazing,” Tibial said. He always loved seeing the different representations of the Goddess.
“It was requested,” Chad said. He had never seen the Goddess as a beautiful woman, but rather a cold bitter creature that enjoyed seeing men squirming under a firmly planted foot.
“So I understand you have a birthday coming up,” Chad said, changing the subject.
Tibial was surprised. His birthday, his sixteenth, was in a couple days but he hadn’t told Chad about it. “Yeah, I guess.”
Tibial shrugged. “Another year closer to death, I suppose.”
Chad burst into laughter. “Goddess, Tib, never pegged you for such an optimist.” He chuckled and patted Tibial’s shoulder. Tibial smiled, enjoying the sound of his laughter and the warmth of the hand on his shoulder. He was enjoying Chad’s company but he couldn’t help but notice that it was the first time the entire evening that Chad had touched him even casually.
Chad’s behavior seemed as normal and welcoming as usual, but there was something there, a hint of coldness, a space Chad was maintaining from him that he wouldn’t let Tibial breach. It wasn’t something obvious but Tibial could pick it up. After years with Lady Eva and Terrasa, catching onto undertones was his specialty. He wondered what was going on, and by the time Chad dropped him off at his house-Chad had adamantly refused to let Tibial walk home again- he realized that it was just another question he couldn’t find an answer to.
Terrasa was right at the entranceway when Tibial came inside. She looked surprised to see him come in through the front door. “What?” Tibial asked her. She looked at him, then through the window at the retreating taillights of Chad’s truck.
“Nothing, I just---never mind,” she muttered. She glanced through the window again. “Where have you been?”
“Out and about.” Tibial could feel her eyes on him as he left the entranceway and headed down the hallway to his room.
* * *
Tibial looked up and smiled as his Dad came in from the fields, his face and clothes damp with sweat, and gave him a brief hug. Terrasa and Mia were sitting with him in the kitchen, chatting while Tibial worked on preparing dinner. It was his birthday so he could prepare whatever he liked. He had pork chops and potatoes in the oven and was putting together a special salad. His Dad promised to be back down after he washed up and Tibial waved him off with a smile. Terrasa looked up at a knock on the door.
“Were you expecting anyone?” she asked. Tibial shook his head. Mia was the only other person who had been invited over, but she had invited herself in actuality.
Terrasa got up and went to the door. Opening it, she saw a delivery guy holding a crate.
“I got delivery here for er…Tibial Marwhile?”
“Oh. Okay, I’ll take it,” Terrasa said and signed the man’s clipboard. “Thanks,” she added.
“Pleasure, my Lady,” The delivery man said, tipping his hat briefly before Terrasa closed the door. Terrasa looked at the large box, wondering where it had come from. Her grandparents on her Dad’s side had stopped sending them birthday gifts after they turned twelve, and even then it was small stuff, like candy. She had no idea if Lady Eva’s parents even existed. She looked at the mailing strip and recognized the address and mailing label. It was from Chad.
If there had been any possibility for her to take a quick peek inside, she would have, but getting that crate open would be a bitch of a job, and one she could do neither quietly, nor quickly. She moved it out of the main entranceway and into an alcove off to the side before going back into the kitchen.
“You have a package,” she announced. Tibial glanced up at her, then back down, chopping a cucumber into thin slices.
“From who?” he asked.
Terrasa shrugged. “Don’t know, I didn't check,” she lied. She didn't want to say anything that would let him know it bothered her. “Is dinner almost ready?”
“Any minute now.”
Terrasa swept a hand over her hair. "I think I’ll go visit Chad after dinner,” she said, her voice light and casual. Tibial glanced up briefly, a flicker of something in his eyes. Surprise or interest or something else entirely, Terrasa couldn’t tell. Her younger brother had a good poker face; it was hard to tell what he was thinking.
“Who is Chad?” Mia asked.
“Old friend of mine. Tibial knows him, don’t you?”
Tibial shrugged, his eyes down on the vegetables he was chopping. His face was hot and his heart beat too fast in his chest.
Terrasa turned and smiled at Mia, dropped her voice in a low secretive whisper that she knew full well Tibial would be able to hear. “I’ve been coupling with him for the last few weeks.”
“Shit,” Tibial said, jerking violently.
“What?” Mia asked, looking up with wide eyes.
“I-I cut my finger on the knife,” Tibial said, staring down at his hands, the blood welling up from the small nick.
Mia got up from her seat. “Well, don’t just stand there.” She propelled Tibial over to the sink, turned on the faucet and shoved his hand under the flow of water. “Wash it with soap and put a bandage on it.”
“You didn’t bleed on any of the salad, did you?” Terrasa asked, leaning forward to inspect it.
Mia left Tibial at the sink. “I’ll finish up the salad, it was almost done anyway,” she said, picking up the knife and resuming cutting. Terrasa looked at the dusk falling through the window, her eyes distant and shining with a glint of vicious satisfaction.
* * *
Tibial didn’t taste a bite of the meal he had fixed that night. Lady Eva had even uncorked a precious bottle of wine to celebrate and any other time he would have relished the taste of the beverage they worked so hard to produce. But the wine was just as tasteless as the food he shoveled into his mouth with little enthusiasm.
He felt shocked and stunned. It didn’t surprise him that Chad was coupling; he was doing the same thing himself with Mia right now. He just didn’t expect it to be going on under his own nose with his sister.
After dinner was over, Tibial opened his birthday packages from his parents and sister-Mia insisted on giving hers privately-and his Dad helped him pry open the crate that contained the painting that he had bought from Chad. Tibial read the title; Solitude and Terrasa helped him hang it in the upstairs hall right outside his room.
His parents retired for the night and Terrasa left shortly afterwards, making it perfectly obvious where she was heading. Tibial sat downstairs with Mia and opened her gift, which was a handsome wristwatch. He slipped it on his wrist, liking the coolness of the metal and the unfamiliar weight.
"Do you like it?" Mia asked. "I noticed you didn't wear one."
"It's beautiful," he said, then turned his head and kissed her. Not only was it well made, but he, like everyone else, knew how expensive timepieces were and the fact that she spent so much money on a gift for him spoke volumes. He thought about how much he wanted Chad at times, and how she had spent so much to give him a gift for his birthday and hated himself viciously. He wanted to want her.
Another kiss, then he hugged her tight against him, pressed his too hot face into the tight coils of her hair.
"I need you to be with me," he said, his voice hoarse and strained.
"Of course," she whispered, unbuttoning her shirt slowly. "Anything you want tonight. After all, it's your birthday."
He felt like a selfish child, wanting something that his sister had, and unable to have it, he was taking the next best thing and it was wrong, it was all so wrong but that's the way things worked and all he could do was to bear it the best he could.
He lay awake afterwards and watched Mia sleeping. He was tired and knew as soon as he would let himself, he would fall asleep, but he waited just a minute, watching the woman he just made love to, gently touching her face and hair as not to wake her and wanting to love her so badly that it hurt and loving someone else so much that it hurt just as badly.
* * *
The next morning Tibial made a decision. He decided that since he was so confused, so mixed up and uncertain of his feelings--towards Mia, towards Chad--that the best course of action would be no action. So he worked hard and didn't go to visit either one. He thought about them both a lot though, during hot days in the field, harvesting and sorting grapes and at night, when he did school and studying.
One morning, four days into his self-imposed solitude, he was out in the fields when he heard Lady Eva calling for him. He looked over at his father who looked equally puzzled and shrugged. Tibial rolled his eyes in irritation and picked his way out of the tangled vines around his feet. If Lady Eva beckoned, then you had better answer.
As he cleared the field he got another surprise. Mia was racing across the yard, followed by Lady Eva, who Tibial had never seen run in his entire life.
Mia ran at him, beaming and looking beautiful in the golden rays of sun. "We did it, we did it, we did it!!" she shrieked and upon reaching him, leapt onto Tibial, knocking him back and making him struggle to keep his balance. She clung to him, arms locking around his neck and legs wrapped around his waist for a moment before pulling back and kissing him hard.
"Mia, dear. Decorum!" Lady Eva admonished as she approached, out of breath, holding her skirts up so they didn't touch the ground.
Mia ignored her, focused on Tibial. "I didn't say anything. I didn't want to say anything until I was sure so I had an appointment with the doctor first thing this morning and she said yes!" Mia smiled and pressed one hand against his cheek. "I took. We did it. I'm going to have a baby!!"
Chad took a swallow of beer and set the bottle back down on the table without knocking any of the other bottles over, which pleased him greatly. It made him think he wasn't really drunk.
Terrasa had been over earlier, too interested in spreading gossip to want to have sex. Tibial and his Lady were expecting their first child. And she had wanted to know why he had sent Tibial a painting for his birthday. Chad had told her with a trace of irritation that he had sent it because the boy had paid for it. He thought it would be nice to send it so it arrived on his birthday but so far hadn't heard anything from Tibial, not even a thank you.
He scowled and took another swallow. He supposed it was better that Tibial hadn't been by, but he still didn't like it. Terrasa had been so put off by his palpable black mood that she had left in a huff shortly after arriving. He might have lost her but right now he didn't care.
There was a knock at the door and Chad glared at it, annoyed. Maybe he could just ignore it and sit here and continue to drink until he couldn't remember his own name, much less anything else.
The knocking sounded again, more insistent, and Chad reluctantly got up and checked the peephole. Great. It was the one person in the world that he didn't want to see right now. He opened the door and Tibial stood there, shivering and soaked.
"Come on in," Chad said. "I didn't know it was raining."
"It started on the way over," Tibial said.
"You need to get out of those wet clothes before you catch cold." Chad found a pair of his old pajamas that were too small and gave them to Tibial to change into while he threw Tibial's clothes into the dryer.
"Do you want something to drink?"
"Sure," Tibial said. Even though they were an old pair, Chad's pajamas were still huge on him. He was sure he looked ridiculous floundering around in them, but they were warm and dry and they smelled like Chad. Tibial rather liked them. He sat down, curling up for comfort more than warmth.
He was tired and had been around people all day. Mia had made him go and see her family with her to give them the news and she seemed to want to stop and tell everyone she knew on the way. Half the town knew by now. And then her family had found out, her friends had found out and there was all this talk going on. Talk about the baby, when it was due, what they were going to name it, all before they even knew if it was going to be a boy or a girl. And Tibial also had other things to think about now--where to live, and if he could finish school in time. And they should probably go ahead and have a ceremony to establish a permanent coupling.
And to think that morning, he wasn't even sure if he wanted to see Mia anymore.
All that and he still found himself in Chad's apartment, in his pajama's for the Goddess' sake. What was a matter with him?
Chad gave him a beer and opened another for himself, then dropped onto the couch with a complete lack of grace.
"I hope you don't mind me coming here," Tibial said. "I didn't know where else to go."
"No problem," Chad said. "I understand congratulations are in order."
Tibial smiled. "Yeah. Terrasa and her big mouth."
"You knew she was here?"
"I know she's been coming here quite often," Tibial said. If Chad had been sober he might have picked up the bitter sarcasm in his voice.
"You're right, she does have a big mouth," Chad said. Tibial smiled and took a drink.
"So why are you really here?"
Tibial glanced at him, took another drink. He still hated the taste. "I don't know. I wanted to get away from all the people, all the talk. Having a baby is huge news. Everywhere I turned, people are congratulating me, asking me questions. I felt overwhelmed."
"Are you excited?" Chad asked.
Tibial shook his head. "Terrified is more like it. I'm scared to death."
"It's a scary thing," Chad agreed. "But you shouldn't be worried. You'll make a great dad."
"Thanks," Tibial said. He wiped a trembling hand across his eyes and Chad saw that they were glistening with tears.
"Hey are you alright?" Chad moved to sit right next to Tibial, brushed a finger across his cheek, taking away the tear that was sliding down it.
"It's stupid, isn't it?" Tibial said, sniffling and smiling through his tears. The pregnancy, and the stress of the last few days, was finally taking its toll. He had realized on his way over with an awful sickening sense of dread that he didn't want Mia to be pregnant. "I should want this, shouldn't I? It's the reason that we... but..."
"That doesn't keep it from being scary. I bet Mia's scared too," Chad said, trying to be reassuring.
"Don't talk to me about Mia, please," Tibial said. "Not right now. Not when-" He looked up at Chad, noticed how close together their faces were. Chad's fingers moved over his cheeks, wiping tears away, staring down at him. From those large, watery eyes, down to his red nose and trembling lips. His brain was talking to him, saying no, telling him this was a mistake, but it wasn't his head Chad was listening to right now. Chad was following his heart, as he always did, and his heart led him to lean forward and close the distance between them until their lips met.
It felt good, right. Like finally coming home after a long trip, to open the door and find a warm smile and comforting arms to embrace you.
The kiss drew out, long and achingly sweet. When it was over, Tibial stared up at Chad, eyes wide and bright, lips parted, damp hair fringing his eyes and clinging to his face and neck. He looked sexy and wanton and Chad felt his entire body trembling as he resisted the urge to just grab him and take him, plunder him, bury this rising heat in that young supple body to quench this desire once and for all.
"We can't do this," Chad told him hoarsely, alcohol swimming in his head and stomach, his hand still on Tibial's face, fingers caressing his cheek.
"I know," Tibial said and kissed him again.
Chad gave up and pulled Tibial hard against him, kissing him fervently, one hand pressed up against his back, the other cupping the back of his head. This was wrong, this was sinful, this was illegal and a perversion in the eyes of the Goddess but he couldn't help himself, couldn't stop himself. Not now, with Tibial here, tasting so sweet, feeling so good as he straddled Chad's lap, pressing his groin against Chad's bulging erection.
"Goddess Tib," Chad groaned. Tibial shifted to whisper against his ear, rubbing him exquisitely.
"I want you," Tibial's hands, hot and dry against Chad's skin, slid up underneath his shirt, over his chest. Gentle fingertips passed over nipples, touched them until they were tight, hard and almost unbearably sensitive. Tibial's sexy words poured through his ear into his head like sweet honey. "I want you to touch me, to kiss me. Please.” Tibial’s voice broke a little. “Take me.”
Chad’s response was to wrap his arms around Tibial’s body, his waist and hips, and stand up. Tibial gasped and locked his legs around Chad’s waist. Stumbling, hampered both by alcohol and the extra weight in his arms, Chad maneuvered them both into the bedroom, collapsing on top of Tibial, Chad’s weight warm and heavy and welcome on top of him.
Chad yanked Tibial’s shirt over his head, Tibial hastily returning the favor. Chad sat up, straddling Tibial’s thighs, leaned down to kiss and lick across his chest until his wandering mouth found a nipple, pulled at it gently with his teeth. Tibial moaned, a long low sexy sound that had Chad rock hard and aching within seconds. He moved his lips across Tibial's chest to suck at the other nipple simultaneously sliding a hand down inside Tibial's pants to grasp his cock, which was firm and thick in his hand. He moved back up to kiss Tibial again, kissing him harder and deeper and only pulling away for quick gasps of air.
“Goddess, I want you so much,” Chad whispered his voice harsh and needy in Tibial’s ear.
“Then take me,” Tibial responded, arching off the bed to press his body against Chad’s. “Please.”
“You are so sexy,” Chad growled, yanking Tibial’s pants down and off. Chad slicked one finger and slid it into Tibial with surprising ease. He added a second, and Tibial gasped.
“Okay?” Chad asked.
“Yes. Please-” Tibial’s words trailed off and his eyes darkened as Chad’s fingers pressed in deeper, found that place. “Goddess, yes,” he whispered.
Chad gently bent one of Tibial’s knees, kissed the interior of it and gently worked his fingers in and out of Tibial’s body. Tibial gasped again, grasped at Chad, his shoulder, hair. All thought seemed to be fading from Tibial’s mind, leaving nothing but this intense need, this hot pulsing inside him, the pleasure that gathered wherever Chad touched him. All he could do was feel and pray desperately that Chad would not stop touching him.
Chad kissed him again. “Are you ready?”
Tibial looked up at him, his eyes smoldering. “Yes.”
Chad laced his fingers with Tibial's, then slowly, carefully pushed forward. Tibial grimaced and tried to lift his hands but Chad kept them pressed gently down into the mattress. “Just relax baby,” Chad whispered. Tibial took a deep breath, let it out, closed his eyes. He felt Chad’s lips gently touch his, and then he was sliding, all the way in.
“There,” Chad said softly. “There we go. You feel so good.” He started to move, slowly. A flicker of pain passed over Tibial’s face for an instant, and Chad kissed him again, drinking in his taste. Chad ran his hand down Tibial's arms, down his sides, before one reached down to grip him and stroke. Tibial wound his hands through Chad’s hair, panting, saying his name over and over in a breathless voice.
Chad pounded into him, wishing he could slow down, go slow and be gentle and careful, to draw his moment out and cherish it because he was certain he wouldn’t have another one. But he couldn’t help himself, he had been longing for this for weeks and weeks. Now that the opportunity presented itself he could think of nothing more than gorging himself on everything: the feel of Tibial so hot and tight around him, the way his fingers grasped at the strands of Chad’s hair, the way he said his name that was driving him mad with desire.
Tibial came, crying out and throwing his head back, his eyes clenched shut.
That sight, along with the heat tightening around him, sent Chad over the edge and he came seconds later with a groan he muffled against Tibial's skin. He lay there for a few seconds, his heart racing, and pressed a kiss against Tibial's neck being sure to keep it light and brief.
Chad propped himself up on his elbows and looked at Tibial, who was looking back at him with his eyes half open. It was a sexy look but Chad was thinking it was more from exhaustion than from trying to be alluring. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” Tibial said softly. He was obviously struggling to keep his eyes open and Chad smiled.
“Why don’t you rest for a few minutes while I get us cleaned up. I’ll wake you when your clothes are dry.”
Tibial smiled back at him and it was so sweet that Chad felt his heart ache. “Okay,” he said and closed his eyes. Chad wiped them both down with a damp towel, wincing at the faint smear of blood it picked up. He hadn’t been careful enough. He eventually laid back down next to Tibial, watching him sleep and occasionally reaching out to touch him, careful not to wake him. He just sat there and watched. And thought.
* * *
Tibial lay in the warm nest of Chad’s sheets. He was thoroughly exhausted, but he didn’t let himself fall asleep. Instead he lay there, eyes closed, feeling Chad’s eyes watching him and the occasional hand stroking his arm or back. Tibial remembered the way he had acted earlier, the things he had said and felt a faint embarrassment. But he had been so desperate. Desperate for Chad to touch him, desperate for him to take him, fill him, erase everything in the world except for the two of them, and he kept on prodding Chad forward to make sure it happened.
Dimly, he heard the buzz of the dryer and opened his eyes. Chad lifted his eyes to meet his.
“My clothes?” he asked. Chad nodded. Tibial walked into the other room where he pulled his clothes out of the dryer and put them on. They were warm against his skin and sent his hair up in a static filled cloud. He pressed his hand back down against it, feeling tiny bolts of shock pricking at his fingertips.
Chad came up behind him. “Are you going to head home?” he asked.
Tibial nodded. “Yeah. It’s late.”
“Yeah. Okay, good. Do you want a ride?”
Tibial shook his head. “No. It’s stopped raining.” Chad listened and true enough, he couldn’t hear the patter of rain against the windows.
“Evening shower, I guess,” he said.
“Um…” Tibial looked down at his hands, pulling at the ragged peaks of fingernails he couldn’t stop biting. “Can I come by and see you again?”
Chad was silent for a few long moments, staring at a spot on the floor. “No. No, I don’t think you should. I think you should go home and stop coming by here.”
“You know why.”
“No, I don’t. Tonight-”
“Tonight was a mistake. That’s all. I was drinking, you were upset and things got out of control. That’s all it was.”
Chad looked at him steadily. "Yes.”
"It's over Tib."
"But why? I liked it, you liked it, right?"
"It doesn't matter. We can't do this."
"Well, for one, you are too young." Chad held up a hand when Tibial started to protest. "I don't care that you're old enough to start coupling, you're still too young. Which brings me to reason number two, that you've already got a woman, a pregnant one at that and you should be faithful to her. Thirdly, it's highly illegal. Do you know what happens to homosexuals around here?"
Tibial grew pale. "I'm not a homosexual."
Chad rolled his eyes in exasperation. "What the hell do you think just happened here?"
"Not in the eyes of the law. Do you know what will happen to you if someone found out?"
Tibial nodded, averting his eyes.
"Good,” Chad said. “So there. There are my reasons."
"Your reasons suck."
That was a lie and they both knew so. They were good, sound reasons and Tibial hated that fact.
"I don't care,” Chad said. “Go home."
"Go home Tibial. I mean it. And don't come back here again."
The look that Tibial gave him chilled him to the bone, but the boy turned and left quietly without another word. Chad would have felt better, perhaps, if Tibial had stomped out of here, slamming the door behind him. Instead the quiet exit only amplified the silence he was now facing. Chad cursed deeply, angry at Tibial, angry at himself and at the damned Lady Fate for bringing the boy across his path in the first place.
* * *
Tibial’s feet made a soft squelching sound as they treaded over the drenched streets. His mind was whirling with too many thoughts, too many feelings. Better to focus on his feet, walking, deftly avoiding puddles and potholes, finding their own path home. Easy to watch those feet walking, just walking, and banish everything else from his mind.
When he got home, he smiled, the grin fake and obscene on his face, apologized for being out so late, then went upstairs, showered hot, and changed into his pajamas before crawling into bed, curling into a small ball. He was sore and his insides felt raw and he began to cry, tears hot and stinging the eyes from which they seeped, building on top of each other in rapid procession until he was sobbing. Tears were flowing down his face in an unending stream and desperate painful sobs racked his body, and then the heaving started. Then he was leaning over the toilet, retching violently and fingers gripping the cold slick porcelain until his fingers ached almost as his heart did.